updated 11:20 pm EDT, Fri August 7, 2009
Apple Google Non Poaching
An unnamed former Google employee claimed Friday night that Apple and Google have been in an unofficial but potentially anti-competitive agreement not to poach each other's employees. Supposedly confirmed for TechCrunch by multiple previous workers at the search engine firm, the practice hasn't been codified in writing but has been widely understood and practiced at both companies. Neither would try to directly recruit from the other, according to the tip.
The presence of Google chief Eric Schmidt on Apple's board of directors is said to have been instrumental to the informal deal, and his recent resignation from the board over conflicts of interest is suspected of opening the doors once more to one company actively recruiting from the other. Both companies have lately bulked up their recruiting forces, the sources said, with the expectation of many more new workers coming from either company.
Any definite evidence of the agreement could have Apple and Google run afoul of an ongoing Justice Department investigation that is specifically checking for anti-competitive behavior between these two companies and others. However, those at the heart of the allegations note that employees at one company have faced no obstacles to applying for work at the other, indicating that there was little to directly prevent an employee from switching employers.
Together, the companies have collaborated deeply on various software projects. Google services form an important part of the iPhone through web search, Maps and the YouTube client. Apple has also had deeper discussions with Google than others over what it would permit for App Store. It has granted early access to APIs (application programming interfaces) for voice detection in Google Mobile App but has also blocked Google Voice, itself the scrutiny of an FCC investigation, and demanded that Latitude become a web app to avoid confusion with the largely Apple-written Maps tool.
It's also been asserted that Google may have voluntarily kept multi-touch out of Android to please Apple, though even if true this would be short-lived. Very recent Android phones like the HTC Hero now permit pinches and other more complex gestures.
Neither Apple nor Google has yet had an opportunity to comment on the rumor.